Several schools run by Christian missionaries in Kolkata are facing a severe financial crisis as the West Bengal government has stopped issuing of salary grants to the institutions without any notice. There are about 70 Bengali medium missionary schools on the government grant list and most of these schools have not beenreceiving funds from the state government over the last three months. These state-aided primary schools are finding it difficult to pay staff salaries due to this financial crisis.
Among the schools affected by this sudden stopping of grants by the government are St. Paul’s on Amherst street, St. Ann’s, St. Teresa Primary School and Collins Primary School. Don Bosco, Krishnagar, and St. John’s Primary School, Bandel are among the affected schools in the districts.
Some of these schools are more than a century old. Officials of the affected schools said the Bengal government had not paid the allocated salary grants since March and due to this some schools have not paid staff salaries in April and May. School education department officials who look after the grants to Christian missionary schools said the state finance department had objected to the grants being sent to the schools and hence the grants have been suspended.
Some school officials claimed that the district inspectors of schools had told them that the grants were suspended because the schools were not entitled to them as they had not produced proper documents to prove that they were minority institutions. However, the government has not come out with any official statement on the matter and none of the affected schools have received any written communication from the government regarding the suspension of grants.
St Paul’s primary school, founded 190 years ago, has been receiving the salary grant from the government for the last 28 years while St Ann’s primary school has been on the grant list from the 1970s. School officials expressed surprise that suddenly their existence and minority institution status were being questioned.
Church representatives have met senior officials of the school education department last week and requested them to clear the matter.According to the Association of Christian Schools, several schools have come forward with complaints regarding stopping of salary grants by the government.
These missionary schools are in demand among the middle-class because of better quality of education and teaching of English. If the salary grant is not restored, most of these schools would be forced to close down as raising fees is not an option because most of the students come from lower income sections of society, according to Church officials.
At a time when Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is reiterating her commitment to minority interests in the state in the face of the growing strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is expected that the state government will act quickly to resolve this issue.